Treasure Map Revealed: Making the Most of American (and BA) Miles for Business Class to Europe!

American’s primary transatlantic partner is British Airways, but American adds fuel surcharges to awards on BA. Fuel surcharges can run $828 roundtrip for a simple New York – London roundtrip, pushing total taxes and fees up close to $1200! (Although there’s a trick to shave some money off this.)

This is especially frustrating because it’s not like you will often find any business class award space to Europe on American’s own flights.

So how do you get to Europe using American Airlines miles? Air Berlin, of course, which doesn’t add fuel surcharges to their paid tickets even which means you can also book these flights with British Airways without paying extortionate fuel surcharges. Finnair via Helsinki but business class award space is quite limited. US Airways, which has a fantastic business class seat and an awful inflight product (and only a handful of routes with much availability). And Iberia.

Iberia award space is cyclical. It’s feast or famine, sometimes I’ll see 7+ award seats and other times nothing. But the beauty of Iberia is that their Madrid hub offers plenty of connectivity beyond Spain with good availability. (Even if I’m willing to pay fuel surcharges on British Airways, once I get to London finding some of the flights beyond the UK can be a challenge — their Italy flights are the bane of my existence.)

Iberia has a New York JFK – Barcelona flight, but otherwise you’re looking at Madrid.

Madrid is, in my view, the best place to go looking for award seats. New York JFK – Madrid, Miami – Madrid, and Chicago – Madrid will often have space. Indeed, it’s not just Iberia, either — American’s Miami – Madrid service is actually one where business class awards do sometimes exist, along with Miami – Barcelona (although you’ll prefer Iberia’s Miami – Madrid new cabin on that route over American’s old business seat).

I picked March as a month at random to search.

Here’s New York JFK – Madrid and Miami – Madrid non-stop for 2 business class award seats during the first 29 days of the month.

Here’s a search for 2 business class award seats during the first 29 days of the month non-stop on Iberia.

It’s not every single day availability from every city, but it’s a destination where award inventory is ‘pretty darned good’ which is something to be said when using American miles for business class awards to Europe.

New York JFK isn’t ideal for domestic connections from many airports, while Chicago can be (although award space West Coast – Chicago may be a challenge but short hop space is good). Miami is another good option that many won’t think of as a connecting point for Europe. Again, it depends on where you’re flying from.

Madrid is a good way to do Europe in business with those American miles and without extortionate fees.

While Iberia includes fuel surcharges on paid tickets, the fuel surcharges that American adds to those award tickets are de mininis — and Iberia itself adds only those de minimis charges when booking the seats through their own program. So you can use this trick to avoid the extortionate fees on Iberia flights when using British Airways points as well.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Lots of Finnair biz availability for next summer. Just booked 2 tickets JFK – BCN (AA) and Dubrovnik – JFK (via HEL on Finnair) both business.

  2. Unfortunately, not only can you often not find business seats, now I’m finding that Economy Saver seats are very limited on non-BA options. I’m DFW-LHR usually and am really disappointed in the availability and the extortionate upcharge now for anytime awards.

  3. Good luck finding Saver level domestic connections anymore.

    Delta and United are better programs now for Europe.

  4. Flying IB BOS MAD biz in April. Only thing I could get. Continuing on to Orly.

    Have flown AB biz twice in the last year in biz. Have to say it isn’t great but they are flat bed seats.

  5. Good luck getting to those AA hubs. Have fun flying US to LGA and cabbing it to JFK, or a 2-leg US flight to ORD through CLT.

  6. That availability looks good in March, but I can find nothing in June. Any idea when they usually release business class space?

  7. I was able to find 4 biz seats from MIA-MAD on AA metal for next June 1st. 3 seats were connecting from ATL and 1(mine) from PHX which are all 1st class on AA metal. Only the connection from MAD to LHR(destination) was on BA metal but the fuel surcharges weren’t that much. I was surprised myself as June 1st was the only day when I searched in early July with much availability at all other than BA metal.

  8. Thanks Gary! I will check out that site. I’m still very new to this and I am frustrated calling American for help. Any other sites or primers on searching you might suggest?

  9. @joe Everyone lately has been making alot of noise about award charts. Isnt it great AA did not change their charts. The charts mean nothing. That is because as you see there is no such thing as a saver seat on many routes like you mentioned. Non saver seats are offered at OUTRAGEOUS numbers.
    Try getting DFW-HKG or AA flights to Japan from all the major cities I checked. Is it really saver level when not one single seat exists on a daily basis as fas as you can search? Delta gets bashed non stop,yet American gets all the love? I take zero sides myself. I am most happy with the program that gets me the seats I want. I am flexible as to where I go and when, so this helps alot.

  10. @Gary
    Thanks for this post!
    Couple questions that I hope you could help with, and I really appreciate:
    1. How many United miles does it cost for LAX-DUB one way per person in Ethiopian business class? Which website should I use to find the award seat availability, is it only in United website?
    2. According to above comments, since we can connect to Aer Lingus, so if I want to go to Paris from LAX, I can do LAX – DUB (layover) – CDG (destination) and it will cost the same miles?

  11. Sorry posted at wrong thread/post…this was supposed to go to your latest post on Ethiopian.

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